Unlocking Artistic Versatility – Voice and Speech Class

byRaife Baker

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Raife Baker teaches voice and speech class at the Maggie Flanigan Studio. In this video Raife discusses what it means for actors to be versatile and authentic.

Raife Baker during a voice and speech class at Maggie Flanigan Studio

Voice and Speech Classes – Raife Baker – Maggie Flanigan Studio

Often on the first day of class at the Maggie Flanigan Studio, I ask students to tell me who their favorite actor/actress is and why. First of all I always find it funny to see people’s minds go completely blank when they have to answer this question on the spot, and secondly I usually notice a theme in many of the answers. One thing that seems to draw the admiration of other actors is a performer’s ability to “disappear” within a role. I’ll sometimes hear things like “I love Daniel Day-Lewis because I forgot I was even watching him and just saw the character.” Or “Meryl Streep is great because she can do so many different parts so well.” I think this can be summed up as “versatility.” I also think that voice and speech work is crucial to realizing the true potential of our own versatility as actors.

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"Voice and speech work is crucial to realizing the true potential of our own versatility as actors."

Raife BakerVoice and Speech Class

Obviously learning to speak with a different dialect or with a speech impediment can vastly alter an audience’s perception of an actor. But paradoxically, I believe learning to become more aware of and in touch with oneself is the actual path to unlocking this artistic versatility. In other words, being your self is the key to being someone else. Without examining our own habits, insecurities, tensions, and beliefs, any external elements (like dialects, or physical impairments, or even a GREAT costume) will ring hollow because we won’t have allowed our inner life to breathe and express itself.

Raife with students in the voice and speech class at Maggie Flanigan Studio

Voice and Speech Classes for Actors – Raife Baker – Maggie Flanigan Studio

This is where voice practice comes in. It’s probably not shocking to hear that our voices are really made up of two simple components: our body and our breath. And so many of our habitual tensions and insecurities manifest themselves physically in our bodies or in our breathing. In order to become integrated actors, both the body and the breathing must be uninhibited so that our emotional life can be dynamic and expressive. Have you ever caught yourself holding your breath when you are frightened, or clenching your jaw when you are frustrated? These are ways of controlling or hiding these emotions that we have deemed socially negative. But as actors, we don’t want to control them, we want to share them with our audience. So much of voice class is about physical release and breath allowance for this very reason. We have to cultivate new habits around our emotional lives and allow ourselves to be genuine and honest with each passing moment.

It’s not always an easy task to simply breathe and let ourselves be seen. It can feel dangerous and even foolish sometimes. It is a profound act of bravery, though and it is the only way to truly be ourselves as artists. That’s where we have to start in voice and speech class. We show up with each other. We perform exercises designed to help us be present and focused and relaxed. We try to be a little bit more of our self each day, so that we can start to become whomever we want.

Part of the versatility that students admire so much in actors is also the fact that they believe the truth of those performances regardless of how different the roles themselves may be. There must be authenticity within that versatility, and the breath/body work of voice training is a great place to cultivate that authenticity. As Brene Brown says, “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we’re supposed to be, and embracing who we are.”

Raife working with students in the voice and speech class at Maggie Flanigan Studio

Voice and Speech Classes NYC – Raife Baker – Maggie Flanigan Studio

Learn More About Voice and Speech Classes at the Maggie Flanigan Studio

Acting Classes NYC

To learn more about the voice and speech class, as well as other acting classes at the Maggie Flanigan Studio visit the studio website at maggieflaniganstudio.com or call the studio during business hours at 917-789-1599.

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